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PROPERTY

What you can and can’t do in your basement in Switzerland

From storing flammables to practicing hobbies and moving in, here’s everything you can and can’t do in the cellar or basement room of your Swiss apartment block.

What you can and can't do in your basement in Switzerland
Can you store anything in your basement in Switzerland? Photo by SHVETS production: https://www.pexels.com/photo/pile-of-cardboard-boxes-scattered-on-floor-during-relocation-7203788/

When you buy or rent an apartment in Switzerland it should come with a basement room, known as a keller in German or cave in French.

They are on the underground floors, vary in size and each apartment in the block will have one.

They make ideal storage rooms, particularly for those not fortunate enough to rent larger apartments

While in most cases you’ll be allowed to do and store almost everything in your basement, some restrictions and recommendations do still apply.

We’ve answered a few of the most frequently asked questions to give you an idea of what you can and can’t do in your basement in Switzerland.

Are there restrictions to what I can store in my basement?

The short answer is, yes. The Swiss fire protection regulations stipulates that flammable liquids, such as petrol, denatured alcohol or kerosene, can only be stored in small quantities.

In more detail, tenants can store up to a maximum of 25 litres in tested plastic or metal canisters of flammable liquids in the entire basement area. This means that you can only store 25 litres of flammable liquids in your basement if nobody else has stored any flammables in theirs. In short: it is advisable to speak to your neighbours first to ensure you don’t break any laws.

When it comes to gas containers, however, the regulations aren’t quite as generous. Any storage of gas containers, such as gas bottles for the grill, is strictly forbidden inside buildings. Gas containers must always be stored in a dry place protected from the sun outside of your home (and basement).

Can I store firewood in my basement?

If you’re getting excited for BBQ season or are looking to stock up on some firewood for the winter and don’t know where to store it, keep in mind that there are some rules to keeping it in your basement.

The maximum permitted amount of firewood to be stored inside buildings is 5 cubic metres with an exception made for boiler rooms where the maximum quantity is 10 cubic metres.

Generally, firewood should be stored in dry places, so if your basement is dry enough, there is nothing wrong with storing your firewood there. Should your basement have high humidity, however, damages to the firewood could lead to mould growth on the basement walls and hence to issues with your landlord.

What about food storage?

While there are no regulations for the storage of food in basements, do keep in mind other tenants. Always store your fruit and vegetables in closed containers so they don’t rot or attract pests.

Can I have a freezer in my basement?

Whether you can have a freezer in your basement will largely depend on the structure of your basement and your rental agreement.

If the structural requirements are met, such as the necessary power connection, a solid base and dryness, in theory, having a working freezer in the basement will not prove an issue. However, tenants are advised to discuss this matter with their landlords beforehand, as the latter are entitled to ask you to pay for the resulting energy consumption.

Can I live in my basement?

As a general rule, a basement is meant to be used as a storage room so converting it into a living room or bedroom is not permitted.

There are many reasons as to why one shouldn’t live in the basement, with a common reason being that safety, such as fire protection, is not guaranteed. In addition to this, rooms without windows in Switzerland must not be used for residential purposes.

Can the landlord set up rules for the basement?

Generally, basements are regarded as an extension of your apartment so some rules will apply as per your rental agreement. For example, your landlord may require you to thoroughly clean your basement once a year and certainly when moving out – though in the latter case they are known to look the other way!

Moreover, your landlord can stop you from storing certain things in your basement, particularly if your neighbours aren’t a fan of goods, such as smelly rubbish bags.

What about practising a hobby on the premises?

The good news is that you are allowed to practise most of your hobbies in your basement – though, again, you may want to keep in mind that the basement area is shared among other residents. In Switzerland, this means keeping the noise levels down at all times but particularly on Sundays.

So, while you can use your basement to foster your painting skills, starting a heavy metal rock band may not gather equal support.

And lastly, can the landlord go into my basement without asking?

You’ll be happy to find that no, they absolutely can’t. By signing the rental agreement your landlord has agreed to let you use the property for your sole use – and that includes the basement.

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RENTING

Will Swiss tenants get a respite from soaring rents?

Housing costs in Switzerland have increased in the first six months of 2024. Is there any easing in sight?

Will Swiss tenants get a respite from soaring rents?

From January until June, rents in Switzerland rose by 2.6 percent on average nationally, with prices in some regions being higher than in others. 

This is what emerges from the Homegate Rent Index published on July 15th.

This study found that nearly all the cantons recorded rising rents as compared to the same period last year, particularly Schaffhausen (up 10.8 percent), Zug (8.9 percent), and Zurich (8.7) percent.

And according to Martin Waeber, managing director of real estate at SMG Swiss Marketplace Group, this upward trend will not be reversed anytime soon — on the contrary, it is expected to continue.

“A further increase seems likely in view of the foreseeable developments in the rental market,” he said.

One reason is that residential construction will stagnate in the coming months, exacerbating the already dire housing shortage, especially in big cities.

“As long as the imbalance between low supply and high demand is not resolved in the long term, people looking for accommodation will continue to be confronted with rising rents.” Waeber added.

However, at least some relief for tenants may come in the form of referendums.

Fight against rent increases 

On November 24th, Swiss people will vote on a measure passed by the parliament, which lightens the procedure for lease terminations by landlords.

Since property owners have the right to increase rents for new tenants, Swiss Tenants’ Association (ASLOCA) sees this move as a way to allow landlords to up the prices each time a new lease contract is signed.

In response, ASLOCA has launched a referendum against this move, urging voters to reject the proposed legislation and thus avoid having to pay higher rents.

And another ASLOCA vote is in the making too.

An initiative against excessive rent hikes

This particular ASLOCA initiative aims to ban landlords from increasing rents arbitrarily by basing the hikes on prices of similar dwellings in the community —an excuse that some property owners use to raise prices.

The initiative also provides for automatic and regular rent control, according to ASLOCA’s vice-president Michael Töngi.

Currently, while tenants have the right to dispute such rent increases, many are afraid to undertake these procedures and get involved in litigation, Töngi said.

A new law (if approved by voters) would therefore ban this practice.

The date for this vote has not yet been set.

READ ALSO: How do you know if your Swiss rent is too high — and how can you challenge it? 

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